For most people, the Christmas season wouldn’t be the same without a Christmas tree in their home. The touch of luscious green needles, the aroma of pitch and bark, as well as the glow of lights and the glitter of decorations give a warm contrasting comfort compared to the outside cold. If you connect the joy of Christmas to your festive Christmas tree, you’re not alone.
Many United States households celebrate Christmas by putting up a tree. Americans buy approximately 30 million real Christmas trees every year. These aren’t artificial or imitation trees. They’re real trees with the feel, smell and look to confirm they’re still part of nature.
There’s no replacing the spirit that real Christmas trees bring. Choosing a real tree over an artificial one isn’t a problem for most. The challenge is whether to buy a cut tree from a commercial farm or make an investment in a live tree from a reputable nursery. While both kinds might look similar at first, the big difference is that cut trees die shortly after Christmas is over. Many wonder, can a Christmas tree be replanted? Live Christmas trees that are properly potted can be replanted in your garden and live on for countless Christmases to come. To ensure your Christmas tree lasts, you must know the proper way to replant a Christmas tree.
REPLANTING CHRISTMAS TREES STARTS WITH PRE-PLANNING
Planting Christmas trees isn’t difficult, provided you preplan. Planning starts with knowing what tree species to select and what size to buy, as well as the care instructions for your tree during the Christmas season. Following this, you’ll also need to know what’s required for replanting a Christmas tree in the garden. Part of preplanning is also making sure you select a local nursery who knows what species transplant well in your area. A local and established nursery will also ensure you’ll start with the healthiest live Christmas tree possible when replanting a christmas tree..
It’s important to pay attention to your climatic zone. Selecting plants suitable for the climatic conditions in your area is a key to long-term plant survival. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) offers a free climatic zone map on their website. Just type in your zip code and the USDA will identify your growing zone. For example, the greater New York area including Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan rates as a 7b area. That relatively mild New York climate means that virtually any species of potted evergreen can enjoy a short Christmas indoor season and then happily transplant permanently into your garden.
When you’re comfortable with your climatic zone, then you can pick your Christmas tree species. Almost everyone selects evergreen trees because of their show and durability. However, many people aren’t aware there are two distinct evergreen types. One is whorl-branched conifers like pine, spruce and fir. Whorl-branched trees are recognizable by their cones’ symmetrical or pyramidal shapes. The second is random-branched conifers that have flat and irregular needles. Common random-branch species include hemlock, cedar, cypress and juniper.
Once you’re satisfied your desired tree species is hardy enough for your zone, the next step is examining trees for size and health. If you’re working with a professional nursery, the knowledgeable staff will happily help you sort through stock and find the best tree for your dollar. Failing health signs to watch for are yellowing or dropping needles, shedding bark and general irregularity in shape.
Make sure to examine a living tree’s root ball. The root ball should be amply sized for the tree’s height and kept wet inside a breathable burlap wrap. This is critical as dried-out roots that are bound or cut too short will seriously affect your chance of successfully replanting your tree after your Christmas celebrations are done.
CARING FOR YOUR POTTED CHRISTMAS TREE AT HOME
Take care in transporting your live tree from the nursery to your home. Depending on size, you might have to move it in an open vehicle or trailer. Be aware that wind is a harsh enemy on trees. Excessive wind can damage limbs or freeze the needles. This will shock the plant and severely risk its survival. If you have to transport your tree while exposed to the elements, simply wrap it in fabric and securely tie it steady. Again, a top nursery will help you secure your tree and they might even deliver it in an enclosed truck.
There are four basic principles involve in caring for your potted Christmas tree once you get it home. Adhering to each one ensures your tree has an excellent advantage once it’s done its duty as a decoration and begins a long life in your yard or garden. Let’s take a closer look at each principle:
1. Rest Time
Whatever you do, don’t be in a rush to bring your potted tree inside and start tinseling it. Remember, a potted or root-balled tree is a living organism and it’s susceptible to climatic shock. Live trees purchased in cool climate regions like New York will be in dormancy if you pick them up in early or mid-December. You need to keep them dormant while they rest at your home until you plant them. It’s wise to let your new potted tree remain outside for up to a week. Make sure it’s in a bright place but not too warm. Under eaves on a northwest side is ideal, but do not keep them in an unnatural environment like your garage.
2. Bright and Cool Indoors
Plan to move your tree inside by pre-picking its location. Most people like their tree as a center of attention so that might be the living room, great room or rec room. Wherever you choose, what’s essential is that your living tree is in a bright spot that stays cool. In front of a window is ideal as long as it’s not getting a blast of sunlight that warms it. Also, keep your live tree away from heat sources such as radiators, floor vents or fireplaces. Keeping it cool helps your tree remain dormant. If you’re going to decorate your tree with electric lights, make sure you choose a design like LED or low voltage. Regular incandescent light bulbs release a lot of heat and can damage your tree.
Timing is critical. You do not want your tree remaining indoors any longer than necessary. Your tree will naturally acclimatize inside and will come out of dormancy if left in warm conditions too long. A rule of thumb is that your living Christmas tree should only be inside for a week to play it safe. You can plan your timing from how long you want your tree up before Christmas day to how long you’re willing to risk its stability. Professional gardeners caution that 10 days – 2 weeks is the maximum amount of time any live tree should be inside.
Water is the source of all life and that includes your living Christmas tree. In all likelihood, you’ll get your tree from the nursery with its root ball already wet and wrapped in a sack. Don’t disturb this as long as your tree remains inside. The best solution to keep it wet and stable is placing the root ball in a large pot such as a ceramic plant container. Make sure it can drain and there’s a drip tray underneath. Water your tree daily while it’s inside to ensure it doesn’t dry out under any conditions. Some people place ice on top of their root ball. This does double duty of both watering and cooling the tree.
HOW TO REPLANT A CHRISTMAS TREE
Replanting a living Christmas tree in your yard or garden is straight-forward. Planting a Christmas tree follows the same transplanting process you’d use for any species you’d move from an outside location to a permanent place on your property. The only difference is that you’ll be planting your tree in winter weather and that requires some extra precautions.
As with purchasing your Christmas tree and positioning it inside, you want to preplan your planting process. That starts with early preparation of your ground. After all, your soil will likely be frozen when you take your tree from your house. It’s not wise to leave the roots bound until spring, so here is a step-by-step guide to replanting a Christmas tree:
- Prepare soil early: Pre-planning to plant a living Christmas tree should start well before your nursery visit to pick out a healthy tree of your preferred species. It starts before frost enters your ground and makes digging nearly impossible. If you’re in lower and eastern New York, this should be mid-November or the beginning of December. Once you’ve decided where your tree will live out its life, dig the hole and place the soil where it can easily be worked as backfill. This might be on a tarp or in a wheelbarrow and stored in a frost-free spot.
- Preparing the hole: When you’re preparing your Christmas tree’s bed, you want to make sure you only dig as deep as the root ball’s diameter. However, you want to make sure the width of your hole is about twice the root ball diameter. This lets your live tree rest on solid ground so that the surface feeder roots are slightly above the finished grade. You also want side room for your tree’s roots to spread. Plus, this excavation is the perfect size to accommodate all your backfill material.
- Resting your tree: Don’t assume you can take your living tree right from your warm home and plunk it in the cold ground. Your tree needs to re-acclimatize once it leaves the house. You do this in the same process as before bringing the tree indoors. It’s best to set it in a wind-protected spot that’s bright and cool. Timing isn’t particularly critical. Using the rule-of-thumb gauge, your tree should wait a week or two before planting. You can safely work this time around your schedule and the weather.
- Planting your live tree: You might want to have help planting your tree. This depends on its height and root ball weight. First, you don’t want to injure yourself wrestling with a heavy conifer. Second, you don’t want to damage a healthy tree that’s ready to give you years of return. Simply remove the root ball wrapping and set your tree in the hole. Then, take your backfill, mix it with damp mulch and begin working the mix around your root ball circumference. Just lightly tamp the fill with your foot. There’s no need for heavy compaction. Now liberally water your tree and top-dress the surface with mulch. You may also want to stake your tree for stability.
HOW TO GROW A CHRISTMAS TREE FROM CUTTINGS
Let’s set straight one of the biggest Christmas tree planting myths out there — you cannot repot a pre-cut Christmas tree and expect it to survive. Once a tree trunk gets severed from its roots, it will slowly die. How fast it deteriorates depends on its species, size, temperature and whether its stalk sits in a water source.
Pre-cut Christmas trees from farms are immensely popular. Some folks can keep their farmed and cut tree appearing healthy for a month, but even that won’t save them. The only possibility of re-growing that cut tree is taking a branch and getting a cutting to root. Here’s how to encourage new roots so you can repot your Christmas tree:
- Assess your evergreen type: First, assess whether you have whorl or a random branch pattern. If you have a pyramid or symmetrical type, you need to take your cutting from a leader stem. If you’re trying to grow a random or flat-needled tree, then your cutting can come from a secondary branch.
- Get your cutting early: It’s critical to harvest your conifer cutting as early as possible after your parent tree has been cut. If you can, take your cutting while your main tree is still attached to its root system and hasn’t experienced shock. Snip your cutting as close to its base junction as possible. Also, make sure your cutting is sufficiently long, about 4 to 5 inches.
- Use rooting hormone: Putting your cutting in plain water and expecting it to root isn’t likely. For best success, mix some rooting hormone with water and potting soil. Place your cut end in the hormone mix and then wrap it in fabric. Keep your cutting wet and in a warm place and expose it to light.
- Test your cutting: It might take several months for your cutting to take root. You can test this by gently pulling the exposed end from the rooting mix. If it resists, then you know rooting action is taking place. You might have to wait a few months before you can transfer your rooted cutting to a pot so it can begin a new life.
CONTACT DRAGONETTI BROTHERS LANDSCAPING FOR YOUR LIVE TREE
The experienced folks at Dragonetti Brothers Nursery know there’s nothing like a live Christmas tree. We also know there’s no better value than taking that live tree and replanting it in your yard. If you’re in the Greater New York City area, you’ll want Dragonetti Brothers to help you select your live Christmas tree and give you the best start to a new year of growing experience.
We’re a family-owned and -operated business with over 40 years of experience in Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan. Let Dragonetti Brothers be your green thumb partner at Christmas and all through the year. For information on how we can help you with landscaping, nursery and tree removal services, call us at 718-451-1300 or request a free quote today.